Juggle Your Work for Multiple Bosses
While the traditional role of an administrative assistant is to support a single boss, many admins today report to multiple executives, departments or entire staffs of small businesses. According to admins who work for more than one boss, some simple strategies can keep you from being pulled in multiple directions at one time.
When in Doubt, Let the Bosses Duke It Out
Joseph Carpenter, CPS, an administrative assistant with Wilmington, North Carolina-based W.K. Hobbs Inc. (a family-owned fuel distributor), reports to four executives. He prioritizes work for the company's owner, and when push comes to shove, he asks his bosses to determine the order of his tasks among themselves.
“You need to clearly indicate what you have to do for Ms. X, and that you would be pleased to handle Ms. Y's emergency if she would talk to Ms. Z and see if she can put some of her requirements on the back burner,” Carpenter suggests.
Ask Your Bosses to Rank Their Priorities
Another tactic is to ask each of your bosses to rank the urgency of their assignments up front. While supporting the director and 32 staff people in the RBC Centura Bank call center in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Teresa Cryer, CPS, created request sheets, on which her bosses not only described the work they needed her to do but also rated every project's priority on a scale of 1 to 5. She addressed the projects accordingly, and in two years, she says she had to approach managers only twice to sort out a conflict.
The request sheets also helped Cryer during her employee review by providing written validation of all the work she had accomplished and for whom. She used the data to chart the percentage of time she devoted to each manager and month-to-month workload fluctuations.
Educate Yourself and Prioritize
Ideally, your bosses will respect you enough to let you schedule your own time, says Julie Pinyan, an executive assistant who supports two vice presidents at Atlanta-based Interland. Pinyan educates herself as much as possible about her employer's goals and business sector, and then considers the importance of each task to her company's bottom line.
“The more I understand our business, the more I am able to make appropriate judgment calls about what needs to happen first,” Pinyan says.
Getting to know each boss's personality and management style is evermore crucial when you have multiple supervisors, Pinyan says. Listen closely, carefully observe each boss's habits and ask questions about preferences early in the working relationship. Then when two bosses give you a rush job at the same time, you are more likely to be able to efficiently get both tasks done.
Keep Your Cool
If you do feel stretched, take a deep breath and maintain a sense of humor, Carpenter says. Companies must ultimately realize that “if you are the one who must do it, then it will wait on you,” he adds. “If you stress out over every item on your to-do list, you will never get anything accomplished.”